Several outlets have reported that both Red Hat and Novell will not plan to market or develop versions of their Linux distributions for the consumer desktop. Both companies have cited limited opportunities in this market due to domination of a particular brand.
My first reaction was disappointment. Competition is a very good thing and to have two major Linux players decide that it's not even worth trying in the consumer market is a bit disheartening. However, I remembered a comment that Dana Blankenhorn recently made on his blog, "My kid hates Linux too! (so what?)":
What young Mr. Dawson hates is “desktop Linux” and he is right to do so. Most desktop Linux software is applications, serious stuff. Serious as homework...Still, what Mr. Dawson is doing, as a high school computer administrator, makes perfect sense. The best way to make certain a school system can only do homework is by making sure that’s all it can do.
Linux is good for that. Homework, that is. Do your homework. Is your homework done?
When we're wearing our Ed Tech hats, we're not in the consumer market. We're in the Enterprise market, whee Red Hat and Novell continue to develop and innovate. Through their Fedora and OpenSUSE products, we still have access to solid operating systems that are very good at getting work done for free.
As Dana Blankenhorn also pointed out, Red Hat did not cede this market to Microsoft, but rather to Canonical, whose user-friendly Ubuntu distribution has focused on desktop Linux from the beginning.
So no worries for us open source junkies. Linux is alive and well, market differentiation is just as necessary as competition, and we're all going to be using MIDs running Linux in 3 years anyway. OK, that last piece is a bit of a stretch. However, Red Hat's announcement is hardly the end of competition for our business on the Ed Tech desktop.